As lockdown eases and life opens up safely, I am delighting in watching my two fully vaccinated teens enjoy a little more freedom.
The friendships they missed so sorely are back on track, and with them a boost in confidence. For Natty this means an increase in social skills and independence too. She also has a new PA, someone young and full of energy to hang out with at the weekend. Because what 15 year old wants to spend all their free time with their parents...
Special Needs Jungle recently highlighted that youngsters with a learning disability so often lack a circle of friends, which is something many of us take for granted, but also something we can help set up and foster within and outside of school.
Friends, fun, socials skills and risk taking are all an
important part of developing self esteem
Add in fewer opportunities to make choices about free time, what to wear or eat, or even the chance to take calculated risks and make the inevitable adolescent mistakes, and we find that we caring, worrying parents might be clipping our beloved youngsters' wings.
I'm also pondering the next steps in their journey as they move towards university and college.
So, when Mia, Natty and I visited the famed Foxes Aurora Hospitality and Catering College and Hotel in Minehead a few years ago, it was the close friendships between students that I observed first and foremost. The clear respect between staff and students was also strong, as was the clever way in which every student was supported to be as independent as possible.
Natty pictured with the team of trainee chefs at Foxes Hotel which she reviewed
And then there is staying in the Hotel as a member of the public, being catered for by the team of staff who all have a learning disability. It's a wonderfully unique experience indeed, that left us feeling more like guests of friends than paying customers.
You can read our Telegraph Travel review here for more information, and details to book yourself a little mini break.
But for now, I'm left hoping that Foxes will one day in the not too distant future become a home from home where Natty forms a close friendship group, learns how to land her dream job of being a waitress and experiences what it is to be as safely independent as possible with a secure and professional safety net around her that isn't always me... her mother.
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